The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bring it

Now, here's what I was looking for: ata, to "bring". (Or atha. Doesn't matter.)

Christoph Luxenberg has argued and implied in his latest version of "Christmas and the Eucharist" - Ibn Warraq, Christmas in the Koran, 415-6 - that the Qur'anic `atâ and its atâ are both Syriac. Specifically: Luxenberg argued outright `atâ from aytî; just implied atâ < etâ. This is because ata's trilateral root is 't'; Arabic uses the alifs as hamzas; and Arabic really hates to use more than one hamza per word. Ergo, someone got around this by accenting the first hamza, and when that guy did it he brought the t along for the ride and dropped the second hamza. Oh yeah, there's also a footnote about Hebrew ntn, but this needn't detain us. (His prose ain't the easiest.)

I have learnt tonight that the Syriac etâ is indeed a big deal in its Aramaic base. I've found atâ in Talmudic and I've found atah in Daniel-Ezra... the so-called Imperial Aramaic. The word just plain belongs here. So far so good for Luxenberg right?

However I have ALSO found atha in Biblical HEBREW. And not just in "second Isaiah" (41:25); I am aware that chapters 40-on are in an Aramaic-Hebrew pidgin, and won't count. I am talking Isaiah 21:12; and Micah 4:3, Jeremiah 3:22, Deuteronomy 33:2...

Anyway, precisely because atha developed in Hebrew and in Aramaic independently, I have to assume that some version of 't' is protoSemitic. I can't rule out that it survived in Arabic too.

Now, we might be able to salvage `atâ < aytî still. Especially since `atâ got used in the imperial jargon (for taxes) where atâ really didn't.

This gets us to Luxenberg's side-contention, that `atâ is dialectical. This he bolsters with the Ubay variant in Q. 20:36 - ûtîta in canon, u`tîta for Ubay. I noted similar in the hadiths about the Parable Of The Workers (here). It's certainly true that `atâ isn't Semitic (trust me, I'd have found out if it was); it just plays it on the telly. I'll also agree that the Arabs had a problem with the double-hamza'ed 'a'ata. I'll even concede that the neologue was one unfamiliar with Arabic; and I'll throw in his origin in the north, for free (getting us into the tax-code). Since Luxenberg meant this whole thing as an excursus anyway - to his main argument about Q. 108 "Kawthar" - I think we've conceded all that Luxenberg needs us to concede.

Note, what is not needed, is an origin for `atâ in Christian Syriac. Especially since that `atâ isn't even Aramaic - as Luxenberg already pointed out - despite that language knowing both the 3ayin and the emphatic-t. What is needed is a Semite from the Aramaic-speaking fringe who had some Arabic but not much, attached to the tax-collection racket in one or the other pre-Islamic empire.

posted by Zimri on 20:04 | link | 0 comments

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